Elections for the new city of Stonecrest started off with a curious, interesting dispute over the age of a city council candidate, and have devolved over time into one of the ugliest political races DeKalb County has had in quite a while.
And yes, that’s saying something.
Mystery mailers — a staple of DeKalb politics — emerged over the weekend. One set favored a slate of candidates including Jason Lary, the leader of Stonecrest’s incorporation movement now running for mayor. Another contains ugly and entirely false accusations against a candidate running for mayor.
The attack mailer falsely describes Charles S. Hill II, a mayoral candidate, as having been diagnosed with mental illness. It also conflates an image of Charles Hill with Anthony Hill, the entirely unrelated Air Force veteran who was killed in 2015 by a police officer during a bipolar episode.
There’s text, in the finest of print, below the picture of Anthony Hill’s last moments. “As reported in the news regarding Anthony Hill, not Charles Hill II, but they have the same mental disease.”
That’s right after the larger-print text on the photo, saying that “Hill was confronted by Police as he walked around naked in his apartment complex.” Anthony Hill, not Charles Hill.
The other side of the flyer “blames” Charles’ Hill’s father for pushing his son into politics.
I wouldn’t dignify this kind of attack by exploring its claims, however Charles S. Hill Jr. insisted — over my objections — in noting that he has never been diagnosed with a mental illness of any sort, and has never even seen a psychiatrist. “I barely see my primary care physician,” he said.
I asked Hill if he sent it … because this is so over the top that it might have been designed to provoke an outraged response. He said he had not, sounding about as exasperated as one would imagine.
Lary also vehemently denied sending it, and said he does not know who did. “I don’t fight my battles this way,” he said.
My personal observation — one that may be very wrong — is that Lary is likely in the lead in this race, and probably far enough out front to win without a runoff, which would make an attack like this strategically indefensible.
The race, however, has been marred by personal attacks and personality conflict, less between Lary and Hill than between Hill and … wait for it … Rep. Vernon Jones, who has been running rampant in the halls of the state house as a newly-elected state representative for the area around Stonecrest.
Hill and Jones contested the seat last year when Dee Dawkins-Haigler resigned to run for the state Senate.
Jones pulled a Kanye West-meets-Taylor Swift interruption at a forum earlier this year, storming the stage to confront Hill during a debate. Rep. Hank Johnson left at that point, I am told, because he was concerned the two might come to blows.
The mailer has the Atlanta bulk mailing permit number 5689. I’ll stop at the post office tomorrow to identify the mailer. The mailing itself appears libelous on its face in ways most political attacks are not, and if this case isn’t the one to finally push a mailing house into court, then I can’t imagine one that would.
It’s also deeply distressing to the family of Anthony Hill.
Amos King, a veteran’s advocate in DeKalb who is close to Anthony Hill’s mother, Carolyn Giummo, told Crossroads News that she is “tore up” about her son’s photo being placed on the mailer.
“She is grieving her son and still seeking justice for him,” King said. “She wants to know who could stoop so low and do that.”
To add to the political misery, some legislative misery has emerged as well. A bill changing the charter of Stonecrest is under consideration, days before the election. In addition to cleaning up some language around what constitutes a quorum, the bill would change the boundaries of the council districts of Stonecrest, redrawing them so that I-20 become the natural dividing line between districts. That charter change, however, would require an entire new set of elections in November, Lary said.
Which means we get to do this all over again in a few months.